Carelinks | Latvia
The Winter feeding season has come to an end, but brother Maxim remains in Riga, running the meetings and feeding scheme on Sundays and Mondays. There are cold snaps which have been indeed very cold in Eastern Europe. Moscow has had its lowest temperatures for 120 years, with temperatures down to -40C, which is -40F. You literally can’t survive in those temperatures. Our refugee brethren in Italy and elsewhere are also affected, if they are not in state provided accommodation; and some in Italy are trying to work their way further north, their welfare provision by the Italian Government having now expired. Do pray for them all. The work at the Riga Bible Center is really so necessary - providing a warm hall, coffee, food, as well as Bible teaching. People were even arriving an hour ahead of opening time in the hope of being allowed in to escape the cold. We need to pay the heating and the annual property tax on the hall, which alone comes to about 2000€. We would appreciate your support financially.
Hand decorated cookie very gratefully received!
New Year Celebrations at Riga | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj21s8Krx1A
Jesse Andrews from Canada, Cardia Cwiecek from the UK and Jim and Anne Barton from Canada along with many others have been a truly great team in the kitchen at the Bible Center. We held a New Year’s day special gathering, where Cindy, Jesse and Evia distributed the “winter warmer packs” to everyone; we also iced gingerbread cookies with the names of people and Cindy encouraged them to ice their own cookies with their names. Temperatures get very low in Riga now, often down to -20 C [about -4 F]. Really we do warm up their lives and hearts, for their lives are as bleak as the weather and the grey Soviet block environment. It’s really no fun living in night shelters when you are elderly, and having to tramp the streets all day with your bag of possessions. Some aren’t even in the night shelters. You can see a heart warming video of the winter warmer packs being handed out, and our modest New Year’s day celebration at the ecclesia - link bottom of page 28.
Daily Bible class and feeding meetings are run on weekdays in the Winter from 4-8pm. There are many touching stories. Ilya is an invalid with spinal and other palsy issues, who lost his parents when young. A woman who now attends our meetings regularly kept an eye on him, and introduced him to us. Then there was Viktor, a man who first came to Jesus Christ from attending the Salvation Army over ten years ago. He got a Bible and has read the Bible from cover to cover every year for eight years. He absolutely loves the Russian NEV Bible with commentary. He has a great Bible knowledge and so appreciates how our teaching has put everything in place for him; we were all really so happy at his baptism, pictured above right.
Sis Anne describes the special dessert for New Year
Brother Jesse Andrews reports: “It’s hard to put into words the need of the people who come for a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup daily at the Riga Bible Center. The area allows for the reception of a large population - being in proximity to innumerable soviet-era-style apartment buildings. What is there to say about the great work that’s being done here? Volunteers from the west come and stay for extended periods to support the efforts of Duncan Heaster; the former preparing nutritious soups packed full of ingredients like chicken, corn, tomato paste, potatoes, carrots, etc. while the latter delivers an exhortation in Russian to the people who come by.
Initially, I was told, the people who came for a cup of coffee or tea before the exhortation and meal came in to sit in silence. Now, us soup-chefs can hear the din of excited, if excitable, Russian chatter pouring through the closed door. The set-up and take-down of the whole operation outside the kitchen is particularly impressive. Though we take care of three water boilers for coffee or tea, the stools (visitors sit on stools around 3 tables) are set up by local volunteers and are wiped down, floor mopped, and washrooms wiped down vigorously also by those local volunteers who are ‘paid’ with a bit of extra food. They also set up the rows of chairs that they’ll use to sit and listen to Duncan deliver his nightly exhortation which takes place between coffee/tea and the soup meal.
To speak highly of the other soup-chefs here, the process in the kitchen is also impressive to someone witnessing it for the first time. Within the span of about 4 hours, the entire kitchen area is sanitized and wiped down before being assaulted by a flurry of cutting boards, knives, meat grinders, and trays, all to cut, chop, mince, pour, and sanitize whatever dishes the cooks use, followed by a daily mop and sweep and then a final sanitization in the evening. All told, after a few hours of hard work, three steaming pots of soup roll out of the kitchen on a sanitized trolley nightly to the appreciation of all the visitors to the Riga Bible Center.”
Whilst Jesse was over we were pleased to witness the baptism of Viktor. He will not live in the night shelters, but just sleeps where he can. He was an air force pilot, serving in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. He speaks well, and isn’t alcoholic. He is aware that he has post traumatic stress issues, and chooses to manage them by living alone. He has become very interested in connection with the God who he knows protected and preserved him throughout the traumas of the war. He was truly delighted to be baptized. He had been decorated with the Order of the Red Star, one of the highest Soviet military awards. He realizes now that all human glory and achievement is nothing compared to our need for the Lord Jesus. Truly it was an honour to baptize him; and to give him clean clothes to wear.
Those we baptize have each, through hard experiences, come to think deeply about life, and had not found standard religion much of a help. They each appreciated the Christ-centred teaching they had found at the Bible Center, and the encouragement to systematically study the Bible for themselves using the Russian NEV Bible and Bible Basics. We continue distributing clothes, firewood and other welfare.
Bro Viktor with Duncan and Jesse